Friday, May 6

Legitimizing the n-dash, from 1998–2016

So I've started subtly changing the editorial formatting of the magazine's articles.
The one thing I noticed, bright and loud, when I first started reading the magazine's stories, is that their paragraphs were super long. Like, crazy long. And I am not a fan of huge, mind-numbing blocks of text. No one enjoys reading that. So in my editing, I've started loosening up the content, and spacing it out, by instituting a liberal paragraph and indent policy. It seems to be working so far, because the articles aren't as painful to just look at anymore, and they're easier to read.
What I enjoy about having had so many jobs in my life is that I've picked up random editorial quirks from every magazine I've worked at. At one place, the editor hated, hated, hated verbs separated by other words. Example: Group nouns, also called collective nouns, can also be confusing. Technically, that sentence is grammatically incorrect, because the word "also" is inserted in the middle of the verb "can be." It should be: Group nouns, also called collective nouns, also can be confusing. This happens more often then you could imagine, and I always notice it, and I always fix it, because that editor hated it so much.
Having said that, I, of course, have my own editorial quirks: In addition to the paragraph thing, I've also started instituting the beauty of the n-dash into the magazine. I don't know when I decided to make the n-dash my own personal editorial crusade, but it happened a while ago, because I've been fighting for its existence and acknowledgement everywhere I've worked forever. Very rarely have I come across a magazine and editorial staff that used it properly, and I love using it when it should be used, but isn't, because they just don't know. Yes, that makes me a punctuation snob like no one's business. (I told you, it's a crusade, and I'm a snob about it. Learn about the n-dash here.) Examples: The 2010–2011 season was our best yet. She is a National Book Award–winning novelist.
My personal favorite usage is as a span between dates and/or numbers, and with compound adjectives (above), even though, if that link is to be believed for reals, that is an argument of aesthetics. Well, I believe in the aesthetics of the n-dash in compound adjectives, and I've started adding them to the stories I'm editing. (I had to lull them into a sense of security.) And I get a super happy feeling in my editor's heart when I see them in the articles. And it makes me sad when they're not in there. But I don't feel like teaching the rest of the staff how to use them, because they'd just tell me that they don't matter anyway. So I'll just sneak them in whenever and wherever they go when I have the chance.

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